Developing a national indexing system to evaluate secondary school facilities and safety practices.
During the fall of 2000, 302 science teachers representing 47 states and 3 US territories participated in a voluntary survey of their facilities, equipment and safety procedures. The survey was conducted via the National Science Teachers Association website and revealed some serious concerns involving facilities limitations, safety equipment and teacher understanding of their obligations. Some deficiencies raise questions about these teachersŐ abilities to effectively and safely teach the inquiry bases National Science Education Standards. Although this data is only preliminary, the authors feel that it might support the need for the creation of a national safety indexing system.
The North Carolina Secondary School Science Safety project was very successful in identifying hazards in science facilities and equipment. It should help clarify the need for focused teacher training concerning essential North Carolina science safety laws, codes, and standards. The information should also serve to provide a baseline from which to gauge safety progress. Lastly, it should help to focus financial resources to address safety shortcomings.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction became very concerned when preliminary assessments of teacher understandings of safety issues were conducted at the 1999 Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers (WSST) annual meeting. Results indicated that Wisconsin teachers had a poor command of responsibilities listed in federal and state laws, codes, and standards. From this information customized science safety training programs and science safety disks were created and implemented to address these needs.
Nebraska Secondary School Science Safety project helped assess the status of science safety relative to demographics, facilities, equipment, and safety procedures. The information raised some serious issues regarding the lack of essential safety needs within the context of an inquiry-based, constructivist science curriculum. The teacher evaluations indicated that the program was quite successful, however, it should be expanded to at least a teacher and administrative representative from all Nebraska secondary schools.
Flip-Chart of essential science safety information made available to ALL science teachers through their respective State Department of Education.
Historically, assuring a safe science teaching and learning environment in Iowa schools was a moral obligation. Today, it is also a legal responsibility endorsed and expanded, by the science teaching profession. Trends from previous national studies and a recent rise in the number of Iowa school science-related accidents, and lawsuits raised suspicions about a lack of understanding of vital safety issues among these Iowa professionals. A summer, 1997 study of approximately 200 science teachers verified this suspicion. It also showed that, with proper training, and tools, these problems could be successfully addressed.